This October saw 20 enthusiastic fundraisers take on the Great Wall of China Trek for Hope, all to raise vital funds for Pancreatic Cancer UK. The group came from all over the country, some from as far as Spain and some even met for the first time at Heathrow, nervous but eager and ready to go.
10 hours and 5000 miles later the group landed in Beijing in time for a briefing and early night. Over the next five days of trekking everyone become very familiar with the many, many steps on the wall, (did we mention there were steps). Sometimes joined by locals, they experienced breath-taking views by climbing above the clouds at times! One of the day’s lunch stops was provided by a local farmer, giving a taste of the delicious local cuisine. On the final day of trekking the group were treated to a Chinese acrobat show and a well-deserved massage ahead of a jam packed day of sightseeing to round off this once in a lifetime trip.
Read on for a first-hand account as trekker Freddy McClintock shares his experience and thoughts on taking part for Pancreatic Cancer UK as well as some interesting training tips!
Pancreatic Cancer UK - Why did you choose to take part in the Great Wall Trek for Hope?
Freddy- Shortly before she died in late November last year, my wife specifically asked me to support Pancreatic Cancer UK and when I spotted the Great Wall Trek for Hope in the Pancreatic Cancer UK newsletter, I felt compelled to go on the Trek.
Pancreatic Cancer UK - What preparation did you do for the challenge?
Freddy- Although I am 70, I have always been reasonably fit. I did a weekend’s walking in the Lake District by way of preparation and regularly go for reasonably long walks at home. I know it may seem odd, but to overcome a fear of heights I have had since childhood, I practised walking on top of the 5 foot high wall around my garden just prior to embarking on the trek in an attempt to overcome my fear - it worked (a bit).
Pancreatic Cancer UK - How did you feel when on the way to the airport?
Freddy- I felt slightly apprehensive on my way to the airport, but was looking forward to meeting others who also had loved ones affected by pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic Cancer UK - How did you feel on the morning of the first day of trekking?
Freddy- On the first morning of the trek I had to pinch myself, because here I was responding to a perceived request from my deceased wife.
Pancreatic Cancer UK - What was your favourite day/ moment of the trek?
Freddy- For me, the most poignant moment of the whole trek experience was on the third night when we held a short remembrance vigil for our departed loved ones. We did this in the dark outside the hotel by forming a circle and we were each given purple glow sticks. I am not a very emotional person but this was a very moving experience, which seemed to bring us all closer to those whom we had lost.
Pancreatic Cancer UK - What was the team like?
Freddy- The team was a superb mix of all different kinds of personalities and this included our team leaders and Chinese guides. Also, there was quite a spread of ages (I was the oldest). An air of camaraderie, fun and great humour developed as the trek progressed.
Pancreatic Cancer UK - Was there anything that surprised you about the challenge?
Freddy- The thing that surprised me most about the trek was the way we all bonded and the feeling of sadness when it came to an end and we had to go home. It has prompted me to join Facebook as a means of keeping in touch, something I had eschewed up untill now.
Pancreatic Cancer UK - How did you feel once you had completed the trek?
Freddy- You get a definite feeling of accomplishment when you have completed the Trek. If, like me, you hadn’t done anything like it before, it stands out as one of life’s great experiences.
Pancreatic Cancer UK - What have you taken away from the experience?
Freddy- On listening to the experiences of my fellow trekkers on the loved ones they had lost to pancreatic cancer, I have formed the opinion that the most appropriate and effective thing we can do to extend the life of those who fall victim to pancreatic cancer in the future is to promote research into methods of detecting the condition as early as possible, when it is still possible to do something about it. All too often the condition is only diagnosed once it is too late. I believe we need to develop a method of screening for the condition perhaps in the same manner as is currently done nationally for bowel cancer. Also, GP’s need to be trained to identify the tell-tale signs of the condition when patients present in their doctors’ surgeries. I know that Pancreatic Cancer UK is funding research work aimed at diagnosing the condition as early as possible and we should encourage this as much as possible.
Pancreatic Cancer UK- What would you say to anyone thinking of doing the challenge?
Freddy- If you are thinking of doing the challenge, I encourage you to go for it - you will never regret it.
Feeling inspired? Registration is open for our Trek for Hope 2016, sign up today!
You can see more photos from Trek for Hope 2015 below